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Op Eds

Survivor’s Guilt

By Christina M. Xiao, Crimson Opinion Writer
Christina M. Xiao ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Eliot House.

I heard about the shootings when they happened. I got the news notification on my phone. My Instagram stories feed was quickly populated with snapshots of news articles and beautiful, snappy graphics. “6 Asian women were killed in a mass shooting. The Asian hate must end.” “Stop Asian hate.” “Yesterday, 8 people were murdered as a result of a hate crime against Asian Americans. Call it a hate crime.”

I heard about the shootings when they happened, but that does not mean I knew anything about them. I swiped past article headlines and Instagram stories as fast as I could so they would not register. I filed them into the folder in my brain labeled “tragedies” and shoved it to the back of the drawer. I did not want to think about them, because that would make their reality undeniable, and I could not stand that.

The concept of the dead viscerally disturbs me. I speed-walk past flowers on bridges and gated graveyards while others stop to pay their respects. When I think of the dead, I see myself among them. I would trade my life for my Asian American siblings, if given the chance. There are so many people who could do more with a life than I. But I am never given the chance. I keep living. It’s not fair.

A few days later, I have finally summoned the strength to start knowing. I am reading news articles and shaking in an emotion that won’t come out no matter how much I rattle. I feel guilty. I feel nauseous. I feel like a tightly bound twine ball of wrong. I feel like hair frizzed up by a Van de Graaff ball.

I am here and I am not. I sat at a Zoom vigil for an hour. Three levels of detached. Spiraling around the fixed point in space between my eyes. They played music. For our minute of silent remembrance, they showed the six names we know on plain white slides in default Arial font. When they ran out they flipped through them again. They are syllables that are familiar to me. I love people with names like these.

The New York Times keeps paywalling me. I read the same quotes over and over and I hate them even more every single time. From Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant: “It appears that they may be Asian.” It appears. Appears. White America, you know how Asian we appear to you. You mock us for our yellow skin and slanted eyes and broken accents. From U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere.” Bull. Your country is built on violence. Violence sprawls out, lounges, reclines all comfortable in America. Possibly the worst, from Cherokee County Sheriff Captain Jay Baker: “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” Fuck you. A bad day is something you fix with a hot cup of tea and a relaxing bath. Your “really bad day” does not justify murder. You know what’s a worse day? Being murdered by a racist scumbag who feels entitled to play god with minority lives.

I think about the people who have died. In my mind, they look like me, or maybe my aunties and relatives back in China. People with calloused hands. Tired after long days of work. Looking forward to going home to the families they’re supporting.

I have no coherence to offer you. I have no five-paragraph argument for how white America has encouraged violence against Asian Americans, from scapegoating Asian Americans for the coronavirus (or in Donald Trump’s words, the “Chinese virus”) to fetishizing Asian women as docile, submissive, and exotic. I have no numbers for the undue attacks on Asian Americans except “too many.” I cannot lay out exactly how these Atlanta murders fall at the intersection of racism against Asians, misogyny, anti-immigrant sentiment, and stigma around sex work. I do not want to debate America’s culture of violence against the “other” with you. I want to scream. I want you to scream with me.

Christina M. Xiao ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Eliot House.

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